I have a three to four year old female Siamese cat. She is from a local shelter and according to them she was dropped off by someone who found her wandering around on his deck. So she was likely abandoned.

She is a very affectionate cat. She likes to sleep on top of me, she demands to be pet the moment either my husband or I have walked in the door. She's very loud just... not too bright. She falls off things and runs into assorted objects (including my other cat) and the vet says her eye sight is fine. She's always playing with anything she comes across and I swear she is a perpetual energy machine.

Anyway, unlike my older male Tuxedo, she never licks my hand. Instead, she always nips at it. Never hard enough to draw blood, but there are definitely teeth involved.

Any idea why she doesn't lick? She cleans herself and will lick the other cat but never the humans.


2 Answers 2


I have noticed most cats don't lick people a great deal. I have had only one cat who licks quite a bit. One cat always licks a couple of times then nips. Licking is both a grooming and a social behavior and also a form of kitty first aid. I always liken the social aspect to monkeys picking fleas off each other or girls bushing each other's hair.

A typical greeting between friendly cats in the same clowder (group of cats) is the less dominant cat to head butt the more dominant cat. The dominant cat then will lick the head of the less dominant cat. (I use the word dominant out of convenience but it is really more complex than that). Mom cats spend a lot of time licking their kittens. Sometimes you can see two cats just laying around licking each other at the same time which is probably more of a grooming behavior. Some people believe cats see us as their mother because we feed and groom them, so they may expect to be licked (pet).

So in classical kitty terms your cat may expect you to pet her since you are the dominant cat, and she would not presume to lick you as that would be inappropriate. Naturally the cats don't follow the rule 100% of the time and some cats are just "special" like the cat who licks me for 15 minutes straight. It is the same with people... we don't always say hello or shake hands even though we believe it to be appropriate. Some people never say hello or shake hands.

Licking behavior directed at others can also be influenced by one or more of the following:

  1. They like / don't like the way you taste.
  2. They feel you need / don't need grooming.
  3. Their ideas about appropriate social behavior.
  4. Genetic factors.
  5. Your reinforcement of their licking behavior.
  6. Their mood.
  7. Their impression of your mood.

Odds are the cat who does not lick you is just observing proper cat etiquette. The other cat who does lick you may be "special" or has been conditioned to lick.


Cats may or may not lick a person based on all kinds of things.

One reason cats sometimes do lick people is to get the salt on peoples skins, could be some cats have more of a craving for this than others (likewise some people are saltier or better or worse tasting as Beo points out)

Cats can also lick you as a grooming behavior but they do recognize that humans aren't cats... so I've found that friendly gestures they do with each other they don't always do to or recognize from us. For instance, a cat is more likely to do nose touching with another cat than with a human (only one of my three cats regularly touches noses with me). A cat is less likely to trill at a human than they are at another cat (two of my cats trill at me but I regard this as a very nice and unusual bonus, an acknowledgement that I am a kind of "momma cat" proxy). In the reverse, cats will slow blink at each other or at humans, but if a human slow blinks at a cat the gesture seldom seems to be recognized.

My cats sometimes lick me but frequently don't. I had a cat (sadly she died last summer at the tender age of 22) who would sometimes lick me and then kind of chew. She would do that on my nose tip or ears and while it was a nice gesture I'd have preferred she not do that.

I wouldn't "sweat" your cats not licking you much. Mine lick me but not that often and I know mine love me a lot....

  • The only cat I've ever had that licked a lot is the one I got at 5 weeks (fully weaned - the mother wasn't getting enough to eat). The ones that were older when they came to me aren't lickers: they'll nuzzle and snuggle but they don't try to lick me.
    – Kate Paulk
    Apr 10, 2014 at 11:05

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